Harun Farocki on DER RIESE (1983)

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DER RIESE, Michael Klier, 1983. Video still.

I was pleased to lend Ekrem Serdar a hand in revising a rather clunky translation of film notes written by Harun Farocki for a screening of Michael Klier’s Der Riese / The Giant (1983). Der Riese is an 80-minute compilation film of video footage taken from FRG surveillance cameras. Experimental Response Cinema screened the film earlier this spring.

Farocki was deeply inspired by Der Riese. It anticipates his sustained interest in posthuman vision.

In “Written Trailers,” translated in the 2010 exhibition catalogue, Harun Farocki: Against What? Against Whom? (Antje Ehmann and Kodwo Eshun, eds.), Farocki explains, “I begrudged Michael Klier his idea of making a film entirely out of surveillance-camera imagery.” (227)

In the same catalogue, Volker Pantenburg suggests that Der Riese (The Giant, 1982), “is an obvious model for Farocki’s Counter-Music.” (98)

Pantenburg continues,

When Farocki wrote about Klier’s video in 1983, he sensed that there was something genuinely new in these types of images. Something that made him think of how photographs must have appeared to the first people to behold a still image: ‘The first photographs – and this can appear over and over again – demonstrated that unimportant people, objects or events can also become the subject of images. Being images in the same way as intended and planned images, they raise the question of what hierarchy, meaning or sense are supposed to be.’ (Farocki, “Kamera in Aufsicht,” Filmkritik 9/1983, p. 416) (98)

Our revised translation of Farocki’s film notes on Der Riese can be found here, on ERCATX’s website.

Es sind lauter Widerstände von Anfang an

I found this funny, minimal, inventive and very moving film two weeks ago and was swallowed up whole (not a common Youtube viewing occurrence). Between 16mm and video recording for television, Ferry Radax performs a respectful, absurdist, and elegant pas de deux with Austrian novelist, poet, playwright and saint of the negative Thomas Bernhard.

Of the many brutal yet ornamental and telegrammatically-spoken thoughts Bernhard shares, I especially appreciated the one I’ve tried to translate below. Darkly hilarious and reluctantly tender. It brought my attention to the German word Widerstand, which I had always understood as “resistance,” but which Bernhard uses here equally in the sense of “antagonism,” “opposition” and “obstruction.” From around the 16:30 mark:

There’s plenty of oppositions from the very beginning, probably always have been. Oppositions, what is opposition? Opposition is material. The brain needs oppositions. By amassing oppositions, it has material.

Opposition? Oppositions. Opposition, when you peer through a window, opposition when you should write a letter–you just don’t want to do it–you receive a letter, another opposition [wieder ein Widerstand]. You say to hell with it–nevertheless, you answer at some point.

You walk outside, you buy something, you drink a beer, it’s all such a bother, all that is opposition. You get sick, go to the hospital, there are complications–again opposition [wieder Widerstand]. Suddenly chronic illnesses surface, go away again, linger–oppositions, of course. You read books–oppositions. You don’t want any books, you don’t want any thoughts, either, you don’t want language or words, no sentences, you don’t want any history–you want absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, you fall asleep, you wake up. The result of falling asleep is waking up, the result of waking up is standing up. You must stand up against all oppositions.

You must leave the bedroom, the newspaper appears, sentences appear, always the same sentences, actually–you don’t know where they come from–uniformity, right? From it new oppositions arise again, from all that you notice. Actually, you want nothing more than to sleep, to be ignorant of it all. Then suddenly, once again the desire to…